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The Story Of Bertrand, A Poor Labourer, And His Little Family Post by :denski Category :Short Stories Author :M. (arnaud) Berquin Date :October 2011 Read :3778

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The Story Of Bertrand, A Poor Labourer, And His Little Family

Think yourselves happy, my little readers, since none of you perhaps know what it is to endure hunger day after day, without being able to enjoy one plentiful meal. Confident I am, that the following relation will not fail to make an impression on your tender years.

Bertrand was a poor labourer, who had six young children, whom he maintained with the utmost difficulty. To add to his distresses, an unfavourable season much increased the price of bread. This honest labourer worked day and night to procure subsistence for his family, and though their food was composed of the coarsest kind, yet even of that he could not procure a sufficiency.

Finding himself reduced to extremity, he one day called his little family together, and with tears in his eyes, and a heart overflowing with grief, "My sweet children," said he to them, "bread is now so extravagantly dear, that I find all my efforts to support you ineffectual. My whole day's labour is barely sufficient to purchase this piece of bread which you see in my hand; it must therefore be divided among you, and you must be contented with the little my labour can procure you. Though it will not afford each of you a plentiful meal, yet it will be sufficient to keep you from perishing with hunger." Sorrow and tears interrupted his words, and he could say no more, but lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven.

His children wept in silence, and, young as they were, their little hearts seemed to feel more for their father than for themselves. Bertrand then divided the small portion of bread into seven equal shares, one of which he kept for himself, and gave to the rest each their lot. But one of them, named Harry, refused his share, telling his father he could not eat, pretending to be sick. "What is the matter with you, my dear child?" said his father, taking him up in his arms. "I am very sick," replied Harry, "very sick indeed, and should be glad to go to sleep." Bertrand then carried him to bed, and gave him a tender kiss, wishing him a good night.

The next morning the honest labourer, overwhelmed with sorrow, went to a neighbouring physician, and begged of him, as a charity, to come and see his poor boy. Though the physician was sure of never being paid for his visit, yet such were his humanity and feelings, that he instantly went to the labourer's house.

On his arrival there, he found no particular symptoms of illness, though the boy was evidently in a very low and languishing state. The doctor told him he would send him a cordial draught; but Harry begged he would forbear sending him any thing, as he could do him no good. The doctor was a little angry at this behaviour, and insisted on knowing what his disorder was, threatening him, if he did not tell him immediately, he would go and acquaint his father with his obstinacy.

Poor Harry begged the doctor would say nothing about it to his father, which still more increased the doctor's wish to get at the bottom of this mystery. At last poor Harry, finding the doctor resolute, desired his brothers and sisters might leave the room, and he would acquaint him with every particular.

As soon as the physician had sent the children out of the room, "Alas! Sir," said little Harry, "in this season of scarcity, my poor dear father cannot earn bread enough to feed us. What little quantity he can get, he divides equally among us, reserving to himself the smallest part. To see my dear brothers and sisters suffer hunger is more than I can bear; and, as I am the eldest, and stronger than they, I have therefore not eaten any myself, but have divided my share among them. It is on this account that I pretended to be sick and unable to eat; I beseech you, however, to keep this a secret from my father."

The physician, wiping away a tear which started involuntarily from his eye, asked poor Harry if he were not then hungry. He acknowledged indeed that he was hungry; but said that did not give him so much affliction as to see the distresses of his family. "But my good lad," said the doctor, "if you do not take some nourishment, you will die."--"I am indifferent about that," replied Harry, "since my father will have then one mouth less to feed, and I shall go to heaven, where I will pray to God to assist my dear father, and my little sisters and brothers."

What heart but must melt with pity and admiration at the relation of such facts? The generous physician, taking up Harry in his arms, and clasping him to his bosom, "No, my dear little boy," said he, "thou shalt not die. God and I will take care of thy little family; and return thanks to God for having sent me hither. I must leave you for the present, but I will soon return."

The good physician hastened home, and ordered one of his servants to load himself with refreshments of every kind. He then hastened to the relief of poor Harry and his starving brothers and sisters. He made them all sit down at the table, and eat till they were perfectly satisfied. What could be a more pleasing scene, than that which the good physician then beheld, six pretty little innocent creatures smiling over the bounty of their generous and humane friend?

The doctor, on his departure, desired Harry to be under no uneasiness, as he should take care to secure them a supply of whatever might be wanting. He faithfully performed his promise, and they had daily cause of rejoicing at his bounty and benevolence. The doctor's generosity was imitated by every good person, to whom he related the affecting scene. From some they received provisions, from some money, and from others clothes and linen. So that, in a short time, this little family, which was but lately in want of every thing, became possessed of plenty.

Bertrand's landlord, who was a gentleman of considerable fortune, was so struck with the tender generosity of little Harry that he sent for his father, and paying him many compliments on his happiness of having such a son, he offered to take Harry under his own inspection, and bring him up in his own house. This matter being agreed on, Bertrand's landlord settled an annuity on him, promising, at the same time, to provide for his other children as they grew up. Bertrand, transported with joy, returned to his house, and falling on his knees, offered up his most grateful thanks to that good God, who had graciously condescended to bestow on him such a son!

Hence you may learn, my young readers, how much you have it in your power to prove a blessing to your parents, and a comfort to yourselves. It is not necessary, that, in order to do so, you should be reduced to the same necessity that poor Harry was: for, however exalted your station may be, you will always find opportunities enough to give proofs of your duty to your parents, your affection for your brothers and sisters, and your humanity and benevolence to the poor and needy. Happy indeed are those poor children, who have found a friend and protector when they were needful and helpless; but much happier those who, without ever feeling the griping hand of penury and want themselves, have received the inexpressible delight that never fails to arise from the pleasing reflection of having raised honest poverty to happiness and plenty.

(The end)
M. (Arnaud) Berquin's short story: Story Of Bertrand, A Poor Labourer, And His Little Family

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